Back to basics

by Sonia Straface

SOUTH MOUNTAIN, Ont. — Edwin Duncan’s motto for his business is simple, yet effective: We get it there, with time to spare.

And it’s one that his company, JED Express, takes seriously. Close to 99% of all JED’s deliveries have been on time, and his customers are happy for that.

JED Express is based out of South Mountain, Ont., a small community 45 minutes south of Ottawa.

Duncan started the business in 1993, when he wanted to get out of the farming business. He named the company JED after his children (J for Jill, E for Eric, and D for Duncan, their last name). Duncan’s son helps the business out on a part-time basis for special projects.

In 1993, the company started with four brand new trucks and six new trailers, and ever since that March day 26 years ago, Duncan said he’s never looked back.

Today the business boasts 46 trucks, and 117 trailers hauling general freight including paper and plastic products, as well as appliances to the U.S. in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Texas.

“We don’t specialize in anything, but getting it there on time,” Duncan said, proudly. “My motto is ‘We get it there, with time to spare,’ and that’s what we do. We make sure it gets there with the ability to track stuff. It’s one of our biggest strengths. We do what we say, and say what we do, because I learned a long time ago, that you don’t tell (customers) what they want to hear, tell them what you’re going to do.”

And this model has paid off for him. In fact, he said he regularly hears that his customers often don’t even want to talk to JED’s competition.

“It’s always so nice to hear that when someone knocks on my customers’ door for freight services and they say they’re not even interested,” he said. “They tell them they don’t care what the price is, they don’t want to hear it and that makes me feel good.”

JED Express is also a Gold Standard winner for being one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies. Not only for its commitment to customer service, but likely also because of how it treats its employees.

Duncan says turnover is low at JED because of all the perks and benefits his employees can enjoy when they are a part of the company.

“The trucks they drive are top of the line,” he said. “And we spec’ trucks out like owner-operators. We make sure all the trucks we get are made for the drivers so they are
very comfortable.”

He added that trucks are turned over every three years at JED, while trailers are switched out every five years. Duncan says he does this to avoid the common problems trucks run into after the warranty is up. It also helps the business have the cleanest, greenest trucks on the road; being an environmentally-friendly fleet is important
to Duncan.

“We have battery-operated heating and cooling systems as well,” he went on to say. “We also have air-release fifth wheels. We supply Sirius XM satellite radio in the trucks, as well as heated and cooled seats – premium seats – the best mattress you can buy, refrigerators, inverters, space to put a microwave. There’s also lots of space in truck for our drivers. And all that is on top of having collision avoidance and lane keeping, to keep our already safe drivers safer.”

He added that most of the drivers who do leave JED, end up coming back one way or another.

Right now, JED Express’ biggest challenge, like many in trucking, is the lack of qualified drivers looking to enter the industry.

“The biggest problem right now is the driver shortage,” Duncan said. “Our drivers are getting older, so I have guys out getting knee operations and heart operations, so it’s hard trying to find the right people to fill those seats in the meantime.”

Duncan said that when he does get resumes on his desk, he’ll only end up calling two out of 10 applicants.

“I like to hand-pick my drivers myself,” he said. “Because I like to see experience. We will train people out of school, and we have a good training program, but we like to hire those with some experience on the road. I also have to make sure the people I hired are okay with doing longhaul, because it is a big commitment.”

In the future, Duncan said he isn’t concerned too much about growing the business or buying more equipment. His concern is making the business even better than it
already is.

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